Marvel Studios has a show titled What If. Within the animated show, viewers are taken on a journey through a series of events if one specific moment had been changed. For example, What if, instead of Steve Rogers, Peggy Carter had received the super-soldier serum?
The premise of the show takes minute moments in key characters' histories and twists them ever so slightly. The same can also be applied to baseball teams. What if the St. Louis Cardinals had done trades that they were reportedly very close to doing?
I am going to look at four trades today since the turn of the century that almost happened between the Cardinals and other franchises in baseball that surely would have made waves for the team's future. A lot of this will be speculation, as we can't predict the future, and we as humans certainly cannot predict the future of an alternate reality that is non-existent.
Without further ado, as Jeffrey Wright says, let us ponder What If?
What If: The Cardinals traded away a young prospect instead of a disgruntled veteran?
Very few players who are drafted after the first three or so rounds of the MLB Amateur Draft are remembered, and even fewer even make it to the majors. However, every once in a while a player does the impossible. For St. Louis Cardinals' lore, that player is Albert Pujols.
Pujols was drafted in the thirteenth round of the 1999 draft. He was a scrawny left fielder who could play corner infield, and it took 402 picks for his name to be called that day. Very few people, excluding one scout from Tampa Bay (great story), saw Albert's potential.
It took only one year of him playing professional baseball for other teams to take a liking to him. The slugging position player began drawing interest from the Montreal Expos in the 2000-2001 offseason. The Cardinals offered the Expos the choice between a veteran Fernando Tatis, who had begun wearing out his welcome, or an inexperienced but talented Albert Pujols.
The Expos chose Tatis along with reliever Britt Reames, and the Cardinals received Dustin Hernanson and Steve Kline in return. Fernando Tatis experienced a plethora of injuries, thus limiting him to only 208 games for Montreal. He slashed just .225/.305/.357, and the Expos didn't extend him another contract after the 2003 season.
Albert Pujols instead became one of the greatest Cardinals to ever don the Birds on the Bat. Had St. Louis traded him to Montreal, the Cardinals likely would be stuck with nine World Series trophies instead of eleven. Mark McGwire may have stayed through the remainder of his contract extension until 2004, and the Cardinals would have been spending money on an oft-injured player.